By Shakeh Avoyan
The Armenian interior ministry said on Tuesday that it is investigating reports that the managers of an independent regional television station were attacked and beaten up by thugs allegedly hired by the local government boss.
A ministry spokesman told RFE/RL that police are now deciding whether to launch criminal proceedings against individuals implicated in the violent incident which has raised fresh concerns about the future of press freedom in Armenia.
Artashes Mehrabian and Azniv Chizmechian, the founder and executive director of the TV company in Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan, claim to have been assaulted this weekend by a group of young men linked to the town’s mayor, Karo Israelian. The say the assailants were angry about a critical report aired by the private channel.
Mehrabian was reportedly dragged out of the building and badly beaten. Chizmechian says she was repeatedly hit in the head by one of the attackers while she tried to stop the beating. She says they called police afterwards and were then taken to Abovian’s police headquarters where they found a furious Mayor Israelian. According to Chizmechian, police officers looked on as Israelian threatened and insulted the TV chiefs.
The local police are also accused of refusing to subject the reported victims to medical examination that would certify their serious body injuries and provide a legal case for criminal proceedings. Interior ministry officials said they will conduct such an examination in Yerevan.